Obesity Facts

Medically reviewed by Daniel Bubnis, MS, NASM-CPT, NASE Level II-CSS on December 5, 2017Written by Kimberly Holland on December 5, 2017

People who are overweight or obese face a lot of health complications, negative consequences, and concerns. In fact, being overweight or obese increases a person’s risk for many diseases and health conditions. Unfortunately, obesity rates in the United States are rising. With that statistic comes some staggering costs.

1. More than one-third of adults in the United States are obese.

In the United States, 36.5 percent of adults are obese. Another 32.5 percent of American adults are overweight. In all, more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese.

2. Obesity affects 1 in 6 children in the United States.

Around 17 percent of American children ages 2 to 19 are obese. That’s more than 12.7 million American children. One in 8 preschoolers is obese. The good news is obesity rates among preschool children have been falling in recent years.

3. Obesity is linked to more than 60 chronic diseases.

If you are overweight or obese, your risk for dozens of diseases and conditions is higher. These include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and many other diseases.

4. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults.

Children who are overweight or obese are five times more likely to be obese or overweight adults than children of normal weight. This can increase their risk for many chronic diseases and health complications.

5. Your waist size increases your risk for diabetes.

Researchers found that men with waist circumferences in the highest 10 percent of measurements were 20 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than men whose waist circumferences fell in the lowest 10 percent. Also, waist measurements may help predict which people with a low or normal weight are more likely to develop diabetes.

6. Obesity causes more deaths than being underweight.

Globally, obesity is one of the top five leading causes of death. It causes more than 2.8 million deaths each year. The other four leading causes are high blood pressure, tobacco use, high blood glucose, and physical inactivity.

7. Obesity is costly.

Obesity costs Americans $147 billion each year. People who are obese pay more out of pocket than people who are not. In fact, the medical costs for people with obesity are $1,429 higher each year than those of people with a normal weight.

8. Your ethnicity can affect your likelihood of obesity.

Your ethnicity may impact your risk for obesity. Almost half (48.4 percent) of non-Hispanic blacks have obesity. They’re followed by Hispanics with 42.6 percent, non-Hispanic whites with 36.4 percent, and non-Hispanic Asians with 12.6 percent.

9. Obesity is most common in middle age.

Adults between the ages of 40 and 59 are more likely to be obese. In fact, more than 40 percent of adults between these ages are obese. Another one-third of adults age 60 and over are obese, and another one-third (32.3 percent) of adults age 20 to 39 are obese.

10. Older women are more likely to be obese than older men.

Men are more likely to be overweight than women, but 40.4 percent of American women are obese. Meanwhile, 35 percent of American men are obese.

11. All states have obesity rates over 20 percent.

As of 2017, all 50 states have an obesity rate over 20 percent. Just two decades ago, no state had a rate above 15 percent.

12. The South has the highest obesity rates.

Five states have an obesity rate over 35 percent. West Virginia leads the group with 37.7 percent of adults being obese. Mississippi comes in second with 37.3 percent. Alabama and Arkansas are close in the alphabet and tied for obesity percentages (35.7 percent). Louisiana rounds out the top 5 with 35.5 percent.

13. Colorado has the lowest obesity rates.

Colorado has the lowest rate of obesity. Just 22.3 percent of people who live in the state are obese. Washington, D.C., is a close second with 22.6 percent. Massachusetts, Hawaii, and California all have an obese population at or below 25 percent.

14. Americans are eating more calories than ever before.

Today, Americans eat 23 percent more calories than we did in 1970. That can really add up. One of the leading causes of overweight and obesity is an imbalance of calories. When you eat more than you burn, your body stores the extra energy as fat. Over time, the pounds can begin to pile on.

15. Obese individuals miss more work.

People who are overweight or obese miss about 56 percent more work days than people of normal weight. While normal-weight employees miss an average of three days per year, overweight and obese individuals miss approximately two additional days.

The good news is obesity is largely preventable. A healthy diet and regular exercise can go a long way to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Otherwise, the realities of carrying around excess weight can start to creep up on you and take their toll.

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